Once Upon A Time Season in Review

Hello Oncers! The hiatus has just started, but before we start looking forward to SDCC and speculating about season 6, it’s time to look back toward season 5 once more, and talk about what worked, what didn’t, and what we want the show to do next season.

Season 5 was not perfect, of course, no season is. But it had its high highs and its low lows and we wouldn’t be real fans if we didn’t take some time to ruminate on them. The end of the Dark Swan arc might have left us both heartbroken and hopeful, but the anticlimactic end of our Robin Hood was clearly this season’s low point. So, let’s talk about both, and about everything else that happened in Camelot and in the Underworld, as we recap season 5 of Once Upon A Time.

What Worked

ONCE UPON A TIME - "Last Rites" - Emma, David, Regina, Robin and Henry are finally back home in Storybrooke and reunited with Snow, but, unfortunately, they still have to contend with Hades, who continues to deceive Zelena as he lays out his plan to use the all-powerful Olympian Crystal to take over the town. The heroes desperately search for a way to defeat Hades while Hook does the same in the Underworld, looking for those missing storybook pages. Regina and Robin take a more direct approach, which culminates in an epic showdown that will leave our heroes forever changed, on "Once Upon a Time," SUNDAY, MAY 8 (8:00-9:00 p.m. EST), on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Jack Rowand) COLIN O'DONOGHUE, JENNIFER MORRISON

Captain Swan. Slow and steady wins the race, they say. And though I would have liked to see a bit more commitment at the end of the season, Emma and Killian were still the couple that made me smile and sigh this year – from Emma being willing to give up everything for him, to Killian sacrificing himself to save everyone, they’re proof that love is not everything, but you can build your life around it.

Charming Family. It’s been a journey for the Charming family. And yet, now, Emma and her parents are in a point where they can truly communicate, where they can support each other, where they are an unit. And it’s beautiful to see Emma not needing Henry as a buffer for normal human interaction.

Regina as a member of the family unit. In a way, Regina is family. She was always meant to be. And it’s great that Once Upon A Time can stand so firm on the message that family isn’t just people who share bonds of blood, you can make your own family, and Regina is as much part of Snow’s family as she is Henry’s mother. Blood isn’t as important as love.

Emma and Regina as co-parents. It took a while, but these two were finally believable as two people who happen to share a kid and not a romantic relationship and must deal with that the best way possible – for the sake of their son.

What Didn’t

ONCE UPON A TIME - "Last Rites" - Emma, David, Regina, Robin and Henry are finally back home in Storybrooke and reunited with Snow, but, unfortunately, they still have to contend with Hades, who continues to deceive Zelena as he lays out his plan to use the all-powerful Olympian Crystal to take over the town. The heroes desperately search for a way to defeat Hades while Hook does the same in the Underworld, looking for those missing storybook pages. Regina and Robin take a more direct approach, which culminates in an epic showdown that will leave our heroes forever changed, on "Once Upon a Time," SUNDAY, MAY 8 (8:00-9:00 p.m. EST), on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Jack Rowand) SEAN MAGUIRE, LANA PARRILLA

Outlaw Queen. Maybe because we say precious little of it until the episode where Robin was ultimately killed, perhaps because there was too much telling and not enough showing, or maybe because the writers never really cared about their joint story as much as they cared about Regina’s individual one, but the ship, that started with so much promise, lost steam at the beginning of the season and ended with a whimper in the worst way possible – with Robin’s death, which leads to …

The anticlimactic death of Robin. Seriously? That’s it? That’s how you write out one of your series regulars? From the beginning Robin wasn’t anything other than a prop in Regina’s story, and that’s sad. He was an iconic character and there was so much promise there that just wasn’t realized. Not to mention the true love thing that was just never truly explored. Sad, sad, sad.

Rumple’s change of heart. At this point is there anyone left who believes Rumple when he says he wants to change? I certainly don’t. He’s squandered one too many chances. It not only detracts from his character, it makes the relationship with Belle seem absurd at best. Which leads me to …

Rumbelle. I can’t with this dysfunctional, borderline toxic relationship. Belle is like a victim, a willing victim at that, because she keeps coming back. She needs an intervention. And since she’s isolated herself from everyone, it’s up to us, the viewers, to say enough is enough. This isn’t romantic – it’s just plain wrong.

Wicked Hell. The Hades arc started out with so much promise, and then …then there was the romance. And, I get it, it was a way to redeem Zelena, but it just took away from the promise of Hades and made the whole Underworld arc feel …well, a bit soap-operaish.

Robin/Zelena baby drama. If this storyline had been treated with the respect it deserved, then maybe I could have even enjoyed Zelena’s eventual redemption. As it was, Robin was thrice-victimized, first he was raped, then they made that rape into nothing, and finally, they just killed him to bring Zelena and Regina closer together. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse.

What We want to See More of

ONCE UPON A TIME - "Ruby Slippers" - In flashbacks, Ruby and Mulan find themselves in Oz, where they meet Dorothy. After the three witness Zelena's return to Oz, they look for a way to defeat her once and for all. However, Dorothy mysteriously disappears, and Ruby's search for her new friend lands her in the Underworld. Reunited with the heroes, Ruby teams up with Emma, Regina and Snow to continue looking for Dorothy.  Meanwhile, Snow and David struggle with not being able to be with their son, Neal, and devise a plan so that one of them can escape the Underworld, on "Once Upon a Time," SUNDAY, APRIL 17 (8:00-9:00 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Jack Rowand) TERI REEVES, MEGHAN ORY

Captain Cobra. Yes, Henry has David, but he’s always seemed to find Killian a fun kind of guy to hand out with, and I, for one, wouldn’t mind exploring the bonds that come with making someone else a part of this makeshift family. Henry is the most important thing in Emma’s life, and she’d probably love to see the two of them get along.

Snow/Regina friendship. This was the original friendship that we never thought could happen. Now they’re sorta family. Forget Emma/Regina (who are already sorta friends anyway), we want to see this relationship develop. There’s so much history between these two!

Hook/Regina interactions. Because the level of sass that these two can muster together and the amount of chemistry Lana and Colin have shouldn’t go to waste. They’re like cousins who scream at each other to hide the fact that, deep down, they’re sort of similar.

Ruby Slippers. Their story meant so much to so many people. And yet all we got was the beginning. We want to see Ruby and Dorothy go through the day-to-day issues of loving someone, of being different. We want them to be real characters we can relate to, and not just a token couple. We want to see them deal with Granny, and Grumpy, and even Dr. Whale and what could have been between him and Ruby. Give it to us, please.

Mulan. Of all the characters who’ve come and gone from Once Upon A Time, Mulan is the one I’m most invested in. I want her back. I want her to fall in love. I want to see her be the hero that we know she is. And I want her journey on my TV screen.

Accountability. Regina raped AND kiled Graham. Zelena raped Robin. If Once Upon A Time is going to delve into such dark storylines then it needs to hold its characters accountable for what they do, not sweep things under the rug and pretend “it wasn’t that bad.”

What We Could do Without

Her Handsome Hero

Regina’s attitude. And I say this as someone who particularly enjoys Regina’s sass, she needs a reality check. The world doesn’t revolve around her. Shitty things happen to everyone, and people deal. Sometimes, like her, they deal badly, but they deal. Yes, doing the right thing in the end is important, but not treating everyone like crap while doing the right thing would be a nice second step.

Captain Swan moving at a snail’s pace. I get it, I do. They’re THE couple of Once Upon A Time and each and one of their milestones needs to be milked. But this romance has been four years in the making. Is a little commitment too much to ask?

Belle giving Rumple a pass time and time again. I get that she once saw the good in him. I get that she wants to believe he can change. I don’t get being blind to reality. He loves power more than he loves her. He would never give it up, not for anything. This is not an assumption. This is a fact.

Favorite Episodes

The Dark Swan” – Season 5 kicked off with an amazing first episode that set the stage for the Dark Swan arc and Jennifer Morrison’s outstanding performance during the whole season.

Swan Song” – The 5A arc similarly ended on a high note, with Hook’s sacrifice and Emma’s promise to find him.

Ruby Slippers” – Sometimes love is about being brave enough to try, Ruby learns in this episode.

Least Favorite Episodes

The Bear and the Bow” – We just never connected as much with Merida as we did with Elsa and Anna back in season 4, and the whole Rumple redemption thing…yeah, no one believed it would last. It didn’t.

Her Handsome Hero” – The episode that made us all go Ugh, Belle. Why? Also, the episode that, inexplicably (as much as we like her), brought Ruby back.

Only You” – I’m sorry, what? Was this part of the season finale? I’ve never been so bored by a season finale before.

Favorite Quotes

ONCE UPON A TIME - "Swan Song" - The dark siege of Storybrooke is underway as all of the resurrected Dark Ones target a living soul for sacrifice so that they can return to the realm of the living. With doom imminent, Gold advises Mary Margaret, David and the rest of the heroes to spend their last fleeting moments enjoying the company of their loved ones. Emma, however, refuses to give up, knowing that she is responsible for righting all the poor choices she made as Dark One - there's only one problem, Dark Hook. When they face-off with the fate of Storybrooke at stake, Hook's actions will devastate Emma in a way no one saw coming. In a Fairy Tale Land flashback, the Evil Queen tests Hook's mettle by forcing him to confront a demon from his past before contracting him to dispatch one from hers, on the winter finale of "Once Upon a Time," SUNDAY, DECEMBER 6 (8:00-9:00 p.m., EST) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Jack Rowand) COLIN O'DONOGHUE, JENNIFER MORRISON

Emma: I just wanted to say something, you know, when we’re not in the middle of a big battle or when one of us is facing death. When things are just normal. 
Killian: What’s that Swan?
Emma: I love you.

Robin: We all have the capability to change and the future is not written by our past.

Snow: What you get back when you love someone far outweighs the risk.

Regina: You defeated me in a way no one thought was possible. You made me your friend by never giving up on me.

Emma: What are they now?
Hook: A reminder that all sins can be forgiven when someone loves you and I was absolutely wrong before. I love you Emma Swann, no matter what you’ve done.

Emma: I’m not nothing! I was never nothing. The power you have I don’t need.

Merida: In my land, people, well men, don’t think a woman can lead.
Emma: Oh, not just in your land.

Season 5 MVP

ONCE UPON A TIME - "Our Decay" - Emma, Snow, David, Regina, Robin, Henry and Hook continue to search for a way to free everyone from the Underworld. At the mercy of Hades, Gold creates a portal to Storybrooke, which transports Belle, Zelena and Baby Hood to the Underworld. While Zelena and Regina get into a sibling squabble, Belle is reunited with Rumple only to learn some tremendously shocking news that will change her life forever. Meanwhile, Snow and David hopelessly attempt to send a message from the Underworld to their son, Neal. In flashbacks, Hades learns about Zelena's very special spell and pays her a visit in Oz with the intention of striking an alliance, but finds himself with more than just a partner in crime, on "Once Upon a Time," SUNDAY, APRIL 3 (8:00-9:00 p.m. EDT) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Jack Rowand) JENNIFER MORRISON

Emma Swan – without a doubt. She became the Dark Swan to save her family, and then, despite all appearances to the contrary, she only gave into the darkness to rescue the love of her life. And, we can judge …but wouldn’t you give up everything for the person you love? I know I would. Give me the chance Emma had and I would take it every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Even then, Emma wasn’t completely lost, not like Rumplestiltskin. Emma always had a plan. And when that plan didn’t exactly work out, she didn’t give up, no. She went to hell (literally) to save the man she loved. And, as if all of that were not enough, by the end of the season she’d grown enough to not only recognize and accept the true love that life had put in her path, but to proclaim her love out loud, even when there was no emergency necessitating a confession.

The Emma is Season 1 is gone. This is a woman who loves, who accepts that she deserves not only the romantic kind, but the love from her family. This is a woman who can have friends. This is a hero who patched up the little pieces of her heart and moved forward.

And that’s’ why she’s the MVP.

Season 5 Dud

ONCE UPON A TIME - "Her Handsome Hero" - Belle turns to Rumplestiltskin with hope of finding a way to protect their child from Hades. However, they disagree over whether to use dark magic, as Belle forbids Rumplestiltskin from using his powers for evil. Meanwhile, Hades secretly meets with Gaston in the Underworld and encourages him to seek revenge on Rumplestiltskin. As the heroes try to find a way to defeat Hades, Emma has a terrifying nightmare that she realizes is beginning to come true. And in flashbacks, Belle and Gaston meet for the first time, but their blossoming romance comes to a halt on the eve of the Ogre wars, on "Once Upon a Time," SUNDAY, APRIL 10 (8:00-9:00 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Jack Rowand) ROBERT CARLYLE

Rumplestiltskin. Has a character ever squandered as many chances to be good as Rumple has? I don’t think so. Has a character ever lied to the person they supposedly love as much as he has? Again, I don’t think so. And yet, it’s the back and forth that ruins the character more than anything else. We can, and have liked villains before. If Rumple were 100% a villain we could live with it. If Rumple were 100% a good guy we could learn to live with that. But if he’s everything and nothing then we just don’t know which way the wind is blowing …and that gets tiring after a while.

We’ve had enough. He better pick a side and stick to it. And at this point, it better be the no redemption side. Villain Rumple was always much more entertaining than supposedly good one.

Season 6 Speculation

It’s Regina against Regina next season. Or Regina against the Evil Queen. Would it be too much to ask for that, at the end, Regina realizes that you can’t push away the darkness inside you? That we all have to live with our good parts and our bad parts and learn to balance? Would it? It probably would be, but I’m going to leave this out as my sincere hope for Regina’s arc next season.

At the very least, though, it seems like we won’t be moving away from Storybrooke this time, and hopefully, won’t be introducing that many new characters. And, as much as I’ve loved some of the guest stars, that’s good news. I’d rather we focus on the people I already know and love, Once Upon A Time. Let’s focus on the relationships that matter.

Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC. It’s currently on hiatus, and it’s expected to return in September.

1 Comment

  1. Great article, I agree with everything, especially re: Rumple and Rumbelle (and ofc about Captain Swan!)

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